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“Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern” Review

Lil Ugly Mane’s 2021 comeback album is a dreamy mishmash of shoegaze and trip-hop that is as cohesive as it is sporadic.

Bedwetter, Dale Krueglar, Lordmaster DJ SK the Subterranean Suspect, Thermos Grenadine, Cat Torso and Vudmurk are just a few of the names that Virginia native, Travis Miller has gone by. However, his best-known name is Lil Ugly Mane. He has been operating under that name for over a decade and has put out countless projects in that time. Early pieces under the Lil Ugly Mane name include underground classics like “Mista Thug Isolation,” and his EP “Uneven Compromise,” but as he moved further into the decade, his sound would get more experimental and sink into a darker place.

Between 2013 and 2015, he dropped three projects. Each one was a compilation of music that he had made over the prior 15 years that he either “forgot about, lost, hated or other people didn’t like when [he] attempted to play it for them.” Throughout the collective 108 songs, Lil Ugly Mane explores genres like hip-hop, techno, rock, death metal, spoken word and noise. Most songs are instrumentals but there is the occasional song with vocals including a 46 second audio recording of a Roses Department store customer help line.

Miller then announced that his next project would be the last one under the Lil Ugly Mane title. That album was “Oblivion Access” and is aggressive and abrasive even by comparison to his other work. One of the most pleasant-on-the-ears songs, “Leonard’s Lake,” still features metal scraping noises in the background.

For a time, it seemed as if Miller’s claim that “Oblivion Access” would be the last Lil Ugly Mane album was true. His next project, “Volume 1: flick your tongue against your teeth and describe the present,” which is one of the most miserable and depressing albums I’ve ever listened to, was released under the name Bedwetter, and after that, he released older music of his under his Vudmurk and Dale Kruelgar personas. However, for whatever reason, in 2021 he released the songs “porcelain slightly” and “into a life” under the Lil Ugly Mane name on his Bandcamp. A month later, he released the first Lil Ugly Mane album since 2015, “Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern.”

Most of the music Miller had released under his Lil Ugly Mane name had been aggressive, dark rap music that had been born out of a revitalization of the memphis trap sound but “Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern” went in the complete opposite direction with a more trip-hop and shoegaze sound. The sounds on this album are so varied, thanks in part to Miller’s ability to sample anything and everything like what sounds like the tune you’d hear from an ice cream truck on the second track, “with iron & bleach & accidents.”

The opening track, “bird enemy car,” is a gorgeous piano-led instrumental that layers in strings and an egg shaker all while an audio recording of an unnamed woman asking, “Who are you?” repeats over and over in the background of the song.

“benadryl submarine” begins with a simple drum pattern and a guitar that sounds slightly out of tune. Around the halfway point, these twinkling chimes are added in, along with some bass and synths that complete the song. The chimes are organized in an incredibly intricate pattern that pairs perfectly with the simplicity of the synth. Miller’s vocals on this song and most of the album sound mildly apathetic, as Miller is not a trained singer, but I think his singing is a match made in heaven for this style of production. Most of the lyrics in this song center around how he feels like nothing more than a stepping stone for his partner, as is reflected in the chorus with the lines, “Feeling like I’m just a bridge for you to cross a stream. You watch me fall apart and never intervene.”

The track, “styrofoam,” heavily samples what sounds like an oldy-timey ragtime song that Miller is able to put his own spin on with playful synths that make this song more of an ear-worm than anything.

“headboard” is one of Lil Ugly Mane’s most popular songs, and for good reason. His unenthusiastic-sounding vocals, a washed-out guitar and a catchy melody combine into an incredible shoegaze song that was actually the first track made for this album. He ends the chorus with the line “All I know is right now, I’m through,” which can easily be misheard as “I’m free.” Whether intentional or not, it gives the song a very cathartic feel, like he’s finally able to move on from the dark sounds that surrounded his music for the better part of a decade.

The beat for “cursor” feels incredibly happy while also sounding slightly goofy, which only adds to the contrast with its lyrics. Miller sings about how he doesn’t have time for things like sympathy. In the chorus, Miller sings about an unspecified person and how he hopes that their day is completely awful. It’s honestly really funny when it registers what he’s saying because of how over-the-top it is. “I hope it’s worse for you today, I want it bad for you today, I set a curse for you today,” are just a few of the ways he addresses this person in this song.

The final song, “porcelain slightly,” is a straight-up slacker-rock song. More washed out guitar and tame vocals with some whistles in the background. The mixing on this song isn’t the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s still fun, as it starts with the song only playing in your left ear before switching to your right ear until finally everything floods in. Most of the lyrics on this song express Miller’s annoyance with how people don’t really do anything worthwhile in their lives. Their conversations go nowhere, they stand for nothing, and they go back and forth in life. He feels they affect him and his way of living by “Rotting [his] home.”

“Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern” is another phenomenal project in a long line of phenomenal projects from the musical Swiss army knife that is Lil Ugly Mane. The sounds on this album feel almost idiosyncratic, as there is not a single other album, in Miller’s collective discography or in general that sounds like this. Stylistically, it’s all over the place but somehow remains more cohesive than most albums that elect to stick to one genre rather than several.

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About the Contributor
Jake Williams
Jake Williams, Journalist
Jake Williams is a junior at Pioneer and Community High School and this is his first year on staff. When not at school Jake spends his time playing video games with his friends, building sets for PTG, coaching flag football at WideWorld Sports Center, and listening to an unhealthy amount of music. Jake is looking forward to talking about and reviewing music in his first year on the staff of The Communicator.

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